I was sixteen when I first came to the realization that I am genderfluid.
I can still remember the moment–it was early morning, the sun hadn’t risen yet, and the stars were twinkling over the coconut grove outside my window. As I came to the conclusion, a strange sense of relief settled on me. Like the final piece of the puzzle had fit into place.
This sudden lightness, however, lasted only a few days—I had to come out to my family and everyone I cared about—but those details are for another time. Along with the confusion and indecision that accompanied coming out, was the question, “will I ever get a job now?”.
At the time, I was afraid that the answer would be “no”. But as months passed, as I interacted more with communities and people online, I learned of individuals and organization that are making it possible for people from all sections of society to engage in meaningful, dignified employment. But enough with laying down the context—let’s get to the matter at hand. A few days ago, I contacted the founders of one such organization, called Pride Circle, looking for volunteering opportunities. They asked me for my perspective on an inclusive workplace.
Before I launch into that, however, I must make it clear that I cannot, and do not presume to speak on behalf of the Transgender community. We are all different, our ideas and views molded by our experiences, just like anyone else. That said, I will try to remain as neutral as possible.
The first thing that comes to mind at the mention of an inclusive workplace for trans people is the need for respect. Many cis people assume that it is acceptable to ask us questions they would never dream of asking other cis people. While I understand that they may be innocently curious, invasive personal questions can make trans people uncomfortable, especially in an office setting. Save your queries for a non-professional setting, if you must.
Secondly, in an ideal world, washrooms would not be gendered. I know that this would be nearly impossible to implement, but nonbinary people are often left in a lurch because washrooms are either male or female. Similarly, forms are often marked with only two options in the gender section.
Parental leave, when having a baby, is another issue that becomes a bit complicated when viewed from the trans angle. for instance, some trans men do opt to bear babies. They should have adequate leave to recover and care for the child, just like cis women.
Health insurance is also fairly black-and-white, although that is now changing. Some cis people say that we should mark the gender assigned at birth, because that’s how our bodies function, but it’s not that easy. Trans bodies are different and medical care should be inclusive of that. Another of my pet nightmares is the scenario in which a trans person makes a mistake at work, as all people are wont to, and suddenly, all trans people are written off as the same. That’s unfair, in simple terms. It also makes work so much more stressful.
Often, it’s the small things that add up, that make work and interaction in general difficult. I believe in the adage ‘live and let live’. Don’t let your biases and prejudices make life uncomfortable for someone else. Just respect other people, its as simple as that.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to inclusive workplaces, but times are most definitely changing, so the future looks very bright and promising.
Myra currently works as a technical colleague in Operation Theater in a major hospital in Hyderabad. Myra, who originally belongs to Nagpur, was born a boy, Vikram. As a transgender woman she faced a lot of bitter and hurtful experiences growing up. But thankfully there was a difference in the case of her mother, who understood her child and was supportive of her.
Due to the society around she advised Myra to move away from
home to a different location, where she could pursue her interest in education.
She was advised by her mother to do whatever she loved.
For Myra it was a question of what to do after studying for up to 12th standard. She then did a BA in Psychology at CP and Berar College. By nature, Myra, is caring and kind, she is always ready to help at home, the neighbors and friends, this turned her to the medical care of people, this seemed comfortable to the take care of sick & ailing patients. While doing her Operation Theater Technical Assistant course, she made a good impression on the teacher who was impressed by her personality. Looking at her, the teacher advised her to do her nursing course and hence Myra moved to Bangalore. In 2018, after completing a three year nursing course, struggled to find work and was at the receiving end of discrimination because of her gender identity. Myra finally got the opportunity to work in a major hospital in Hyderabad.
The hospital has also given a house to stay and has provided transport facilities.
Myra has become the first transgender woman nurse & technician working in the Operation Theater in India .
Myra is are very satisfied and happy working in the field of
nursing. For her it is an area where
there is respect, service and friendship; it is a dream come true for her.
Being a transwoman has nothing to do with her professional
field. When she is working, she is just a responsible nurse there. A transgender
person’s life is not just limited to singing songs & giving blessings or
begging, the world is changing, the society is changing too. And it is time
that as transgender people we change too. New paths of the new world are here
to take us to our dreams.
A dream of becoming a nurse is complete. Her second dream is of a good partner.
I’ve had a wild childhood that included short haircuts, bossing other kids around, hitting boys of the same age, roaming around in stereo-typically masculine clothes. That’s how my parents, relatives and other elders labelled me as a tomboy. And the term stuck with me throughout primary school. In high school, when my fellow female batch mates started to discuss boys and vice versa, I found all of it nonsensical and naively thought that I was more mature than them and focused on studies. When I was 13, I fell for a girl in my class. Turns out, I hit puberty late; and when I did, boy did I immediately realize I was Different; realized that I was romantically and sexually attracted to people of the same sex. I started worrying about the future, dreading as to how I would ever be able to share this secret with my parents, losing many friends in the process. My academic progress began to deteriorate. The rowdy kid that I once was, now I slowly began to withdraw, kept to myself, became reserved and unsociable. My music was my only happy place and comfort zone. I practiced on my piano day and night to escape from the constant melancholy.
All my three years as an undergraduate in sound school, I was the only girl in an entire batch of around 70 students. I figured I’d have no problem blending in with other boys as I always thought we were very much alike. But apparently, they didn’t see it that way. Furthermore, I forgot how to behave with and felt awkward around women. After completing my bachelors in mass media from Pune, the 21-year-old me returned to Mumbai and started internships and working freelance on commercial projects in the field of audio, film sound and music- a field that is highly male-dominated. I felt lost and found it difficult to maintain a balance between my professional and personal life surrounded by the constant cliched stereotypes and hackneyed ideas. And that’s when I decided to come out to my parents in June 2017. Guess there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing. I’d always figured that I would do it when I was independent and stable, financially and spiritually. But the emotional burden was too much to handle. Mama and papa, both, were initially shocked, are still apprehensive but supportive, nonetheless. And for that, I’m grateful. My relationship with father, though, has been a bit strenuous since. But I’m patient because I know that as I took so long to accept myself and be courageous enough to tell them my truth, they too will need a while to get used to and accept this fact.
Coming out is a process and not just a one-time thing that
happens overnight. A year after I came out to my parents, I understood that
gender identity and sexual orientation are two separate entities. I realized
that I wasn’t just attracted to women but identified myself (and felt more
comfortable) as Transmasculine.
In Feb 2019, I attended my first PRIDE ever in Mumbai and was overwhelmed to see such a diverse and colourful crowd & it was even more amazing to mingle with so many unapologetic, flamboyantly-dressed strangers!
On 6th September 2018, we scrapped IPC Section 377, thus
decriminalizing homosexuality in India. Consensual LGBT relationships are now
finally acknowledged & Legalised by the law. A positive
START for sure, but we STILL have a long way to go with working on issues such
as equal marriage, adoption and inheritance, among others, because the society
that we currently live in, is still strictly heteronormative.
I belong to a conservative family.
My extended family and relatives are not even aware of the LGBT existence. And
this is what has prompted me to speak up and share my experience, my story. Not
to gain acceptance from people who don’t truly matter to me or to raise debates
with people who would adamantly refuse to acknowledge this issue, but for some
other closeted kid who’s going through the same dilemma that I was once in. To
assure him that It’s Okay. It’s not you but it’s the conservative society that
we are currently living in & constantly making efforts to change it for the
‘Love is Love.’
“You don’t have to be gay to be a supporter; you just have to be HUMAN.”
Awareness, Diversity and
Inclusion is what all of us need to collectively promote.
Encourage Gender Equality, Keep Defying
Stereotypes & CHANGE IS INEVITABLE
‘This is the funny thing about growing up. For years and years, everybody’s desperately afraid. Afraid to be different, you know, in any way. And then, suddenly, almost overnight, everybody wants to Be Different & to stand out from the crowd. And that is where WE win.’
There is never a single defining moment when you “Come out of the closet”. It’s a journey which starts with self-realization and self-exploration.
So, my story goes something like this, I always knew I was different. I could never conform to the typical stereotype of masculinity, which society rubs on our face without any qualms. In my school days, I was always a quiet chap who preferred reading Enid Blyton than playing soccer. I was more interested in languages and poetry. Art and craft attracted me more than a cricket match. So, from what I can re-collect, it was always an enigma which later translated into self-doubt as to why I do not relate with most guys. What makes me different?
As I grew older, that feeling of disconnect simply kept growing. Childhood can be unforgiving as bullying is something which comes pretty easy, especially when you are different. I became more and more of a loner. I diverted all my attention to just studies as a defense mechanism. Even though I did fairly well in academics, I was not really happy in the true sense. There was this perpetually increasing feeling of being an outcast. And this dates to a decade where there were no apps or social media to connect with people who were like me. So, there was sheer loneliness.
And then came adolescence which is an inner emotional upheaval by default. I found it very strange and confusing to see other boys of my school go all gaga and starry-eyed over girls. However, I never felt any attraction for girls. That time I was not aware that terms such as “homosexuality” or “gay” exist. But a new thing started happening then, which was not a quantum less than a nightmare, and that was the fact that I had started noticing a cute guy in my class. I would blush (which was a shocker then) whenever I had a conversation with him for class assignments. And this marked the onset of my self-exploration. I started researching about this behavior pattern with the limited resources I had then. There used to be no smartphones at that time. I remember going to cyber cafe to browse content related to this behavior and that’s how I became familiar with the nomenclature.
For obvious reasons, I could not find much positive content related to homosexuality in the Indian context. I got into self-denial mode and that initiated my dual life. So, I lived in two worlds. There was this heteronormative world where I had to act straight and then, there was the world I belonged to, but wanted to deny. It’s not easy to fake and it did take a toll on my mind and personality. The two worlds indeed intersected at times and that was nothing less than an “end-of-world” feeling.
Transition from school to college had its own blemishes to carve on my young mind. When you are at home, you are in a very protected sequestered environment. However, when you are in a hostel, things change. That’s the age of sexist jokes and jibes. Unfortunately, homosexuality is used the most for caricature. When you are in a setup which is completely homophobic and there are no similar voices around, it impacts your peace of mind. I was becoming vulnerable and insecure with each passing day. Though I was coming close to accepting my sexuality, the unbecoming need to always wear a facade was growing. Imagine the plight to fake smile at a joke which unintentionally demeans and derogates my identity. I was getting anxious and the angst was growing manyfold.
The inability to relate to your peers and the colossal weight of the “straight” facade to carry, drove me to a dark tunnel where there was not a single ray of light.
Though I was managing my studies well, I dripped into clinical depression and was into anti-depressants. Depression was a major blow to everything, but it did one positive thing. When you are at such a low point, you tend to loose all your inhibitions.
I came to terms with my sexuality and made peace with it. That was my coming out to myself.
At that time, there was this best friend of mine who was very supportive. He was the first person I came out to. He is my strongest straight ally. I really appreciate the fact that he never feared being tagged as gay because of his close friendship with me.
Time flew, and I completed my education and started my career with SAP. With passing time, I started exploring the community. I was pretty much satisfied with my career. On the personal front, I started meeting people from the community, with lots of reluctance and hesitation. With time, the topic of marriage started popping up at home. My parents wanted me to meet prospects, but I was very clear that I don’t want to live a fake dual life, nor I want to ruin a girl’s life just for the heck of society. When family pressure for marriage became too much, I came out to my parents. Obviously, it was a total shocker for them. My dad almost became insomniac and avoided any discussion initially. But my mom tried her best to understand me. During this tough time, there was this close friend of mine who acted like a shield. Even though we were in different cities, he ensured that he was with me at every moment. Without him, I would have never come out to my parents. He personifies friendship in the true sense. After initial struggles, my parents understood me and tried their best to make peace with it. It’s a new journey for them as well. I feel I am lucky to be blessed with such understanding parents. After parents, I started coming out to my close friends and colleagues. The leadership of my organization was very supportive and that was a big motivation. With acceptance coming my way, I felt better, and it boosted my confidence. As they say, it always takes some bad experiences to finally meet the love of your life. The same happened with me. I found my love in the most unexpected way. Since then, there was no looking back. With him, each moment is sheer celebration. He understands me the way no one ever can.
From the workplace perspective, SAP Diversity & Inclusion team is working actively to create awareness and sensitization around this topic. A lot of work is happening to ensure that SAP workplace is unbiased and does not discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. SAP is offering medical benefit for samesex partners. There is an Ally@SAP group which not only drives initiatives for the community but also acts like a support system wherever needed. The Ally Group provides a private space where people from the community can freely express themselves without their identity being revealed. SAP also has gender neutral restrooms to cater to the diverse gender identity. I am proud to be part of an organization like SAP whose core sentiment lies in the celebration of diversity. I am trying to do my bit for the community together with SAP Diversity & Inclusion team and I am sure that we will accomplish our vision of diversity and inclusion.
With the scrapping of Section 377, a new era has begun for my community. I am glad that India has finally embraced the rainbow with all its colors. I am optimistic about future that gay marriage would be legalized, and I would walk down the aisle with my partner in my own country. We wish that there would be adoption rights soon for gay couples. We both love kids and they would make our family complete. Let’s strive towards creating a better world where people like me would not have to go through tough times because of their sexual orientation.
Many have experienced this and there will be many who plan on doing so. Just waiting for the right moment or the right amount of courage they wish they will have in future. Not a particularly pleasant experience like your first car or first kiss but people do it to be true to people around them. To be accepted for who they are or that’s at least what the aim is…
This one goes back to the time of my school days. I never really knew how to acknowledge or describe this feeling that feeling that was in me since what seemed to be forever because right from the beginning I was fed strictly heteronormative ideals of the society. Throughout my childhood I grew without having these feelings fit into any category or name. I could not discuss them with anyone and as I grew older I could neither fit myself into these feelings nor the heteronormative society I was a part of.
There used to be a time when I was in love and peace. The peace one has when they are in the comfort of their home. I was happy and I was loved. But it did not fade away with time. It was stripped of from me in a turning point of my life and it felt like I was in a state of mental and emotional coma. I could see, hear and touch the world but there was a disconnect between the feelings. All I could do in this hollow body was see, hear and touch. I could not feel. I could only feel that I was hurt. As time passed it got harder. I had lost myself to the tides of time once again, worse than ever but I learnt a lesson. I got up and set my goals to get my own place, to get a job and be independent.
My struggle for coming out was not that easy. It all started almost 4 years ago when I anchored a show that was organized to facilitate transgender rights. It was a big event with extensive media coverage and I was not at all upset about my photos being published in the newspaper. Till that time I had explored my sexuality and gender and was quite comfortable with it. I had come out to the world but I hadn’t come out to my family. Now that I was featured in the newspaper as a part of the community. I was presented with a last opportunity to tell my family the truth and come out to them or they would get to know it anyway. I was scared and nervous but these fears weighed nothing against the fact that my family would feel betrayed if I hadn’t confessed to them this time. It was not even a situation ‘do or die’ but rather a situation ‘do and die’ especially when you are raised in a conservative Islamic family. My parents actively confronted me. I was heavily scolded, not allowed to step out of the house and even my mobile phone was confiscated. They thought that this was the result of some supernatural superstitious powers
My mother on the advice of a fakir baba compelled me to watch burning diyas in evening for 40 days. The fakir assured my family that I will be ‘back to ‘normal’ and get attracted towards women. I was just 19 at the time. In the beginning my mother used to sit beside me to ensure that I did not get distracted. For almost a week she was regular but then I think she got bored and stop accompanying me… Or if she had something else in the mind? I don’t know. I was left by myself. Unlike the light of the Diya that illuminated the fading dusk, the light within me struggled to survive. It was a harsh time. My parents compelled me to do so. After 40 days my parents thought that I was ‘back to normal‘. I was the one who suffered through it and nodded yes to their question of being heteronormative.
Being gay in a conservative Muslim family, Acceptance doesn’t come with ease… Time passed by and this event was virtually forgotten in the sands of time. This continued for almost an year. I was living my life in the closet. Then one fine day as I was scrolling through my FB profile and came across this post related to Delhi pride. I participated and wore a woman’s attire. The next day again my pictures were published by newspaper. Being dressed up like that didn’t mean I was a cross dresser or transgender but it was to break the stereotype that clothing defines our gender and that living in a democratic country we have the right to choice!
My family was outraged seeing my photos in pride events again and forced me to consult a clinical psychiatrist. During my sessions the psychiatrist told me to watch straight porn. I followed up her advice and during the follow up sessions told her how much I enjoyed watching men in those videos. She ignored my words and tried other tricks but nothing happened. After almost six sessions she called up my father and told him that I can’t be ‘cured‘. My father said nothing.
3 months later I graduated. My mother used to keep an eye on me that I didn’t spend too much time with any particular person of the same sex. They thought that I was gay because I had a homosexual friend circle. They planned to keep me away from it all and ‘convert’ me into a heterosexual man so they sent me to Dubai just so that I could get separated from my friend circle. I almost stayed for 6 months over there torn away from my friends, family and from myself. I also had to discontinue my academics too. Then one day I finally decided to take a stand for myself and return back to India. I took refuge in my relative’s home. Meeting again the people from my community and my friends felt like I was now a bird once again set free. As long as I was with them these 6 months of being caged didn’t matter anymore. Having passed this ‘test’ I felt more confident about my sexuality.
Today I am an active member of Lucknow queer committee and whenever I get a platform to convey my feelings, I speak my heart out because it is the time when I get to show the world what I have been through and how I have grown over it rather than listening to all the world had to say about me that needs to be changed. It is the blessed time when I get to open up all those feelings and experiences that have been bottled up for all these years. Sometimes people would accuse me that I did all this to seek attention. To them I say that I did it for myself. I did it because I cannot live a closeted life in fear of being uncovered. I did it for people out there who might have faced or might be facing what I have faced and how I grew up to be immune to that gibberish and set my true priorities. I want to reach out to all of them and tell them that they shouldn’t spend their life thinking they are a shame, not even a slightest bit.
After Coming Out to some, people tried to pull me down and criticized my decision. They told me my life would be ruined in the society and all that shit. However I thought that they deserved to know the real me because they had and have that important place in my life. Though I just don’t understand why our orthodox neighbors and relatives are so much concerned about personal things like these and they spread the word like wild fire. Things started getting into a MAELSTROM, all my fears like losing the people closest to me, not independent enough to earn my living were becoming true. Exactly the opposite had happened. Because I could not come out to people before the orthodox society did my orientation was kept above whatever else I had achieved in my life and people failed to understand the real me.
Today when I look in the mirror, I don’t see a person who has been living a life of secrecy. I see the real me, I see someone who was drowned neck deep in shit but managed to pull himself out with his determination, love and support from friends and family. There are little pieces of shit which get stuck onto me here and there but I do what everyone else does wipe it off without thinking much about it. The best thing one can be is being true to themselves. Till you don’t do that forget changing anything else majority. * CHANGE STARTS FROM WITHIN* self-acceptance is very important because if you hide your real you it will develop into something very dark. Something which can later whip itself out and destroy you from within. Cutting yourself with blade or indulging in substance abuse are not the only form of self-harm. JUST BE STRONG!! BE TRUE TO YOURSELF!! Till you don’t do that forget changing the whole world!
Everyone is special in his own way. Some of you embraced your true self being and are vocal about it to world. I still remember my coming out in my college, a friend asked me, you never told you are from third gender? WELL this is not to offend anyone but the awareness on LGBTQ+ people is so less in INDIA that anyone might get confused with the LGBTQ+ community. Just don’t lose your temper it’s not their fault take deep breath and do collect more information for them for the next time.
For them who think IT’S JUST A PHASE? well it is human psychology that whenever you breaks some bad news to a person the initial reaction will be “denial” well just if some of you don’t know WHO( world health org) has removed the homosexuality as an illness almost 30 years ago.
One of the most asked Question, “How will you face the society” for them I would say THANKS FOR CONCERN!! I know what I have faced so far, I know how I was ridiculed and mocked in school for being effeminate. It doesn’t matter to anyone anymore
I would also like to add about my reconciliation of my faith with my religion too? I am very clear on my religion…
I believe in Allah and I also believe that only Allah has a right to judge me.
Homosexuality is sin in Islam but there are other things too. People feel that being GAY is being an atheist, they might not follow their practices and gain accomplishment in their duties.… But it’s not like that what I believe because of this homophobic attitude like this that because suffering to innocent gay people. It is anti-Islamic but it will also lead to such injustice to those people who wish to pray and perform their daily rituals give charity and feed poor but cannot physically bring themselves to be with opposite sex. No doubt religion is a big part of my life.
If I see now, well I do talk to my family… I continued to actively participate in all queer events be it queer prides, queer flash mobs or queer film fests. All of these events were covered by the media and my photos were prominently featured in dailies and on various websites. My family still hasn’t warmed up to the fact that I am gay and continues to remain distant about my sexuality. But I am okay with that- I want to give them some more time to come to terms with my sexual orientation. There is hush hush around my sexuality. Luckily my siblings are very supportive. They have met with my friends and are quite comfortable with them my parents not talking about it which is understandable. I want to give them some more time. And I am sure that there will come a day when they will accept me for who I am. Time heals everything and I am a great believer of that. “And I am sure that there will be a day when they will say – We still love you for who you ARE…
Namaste ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and people of all ages and genders! Venkatesh here, LGBTQ activist from the City of Joy Kolkata.
Since the age of 17, questions about attraction towards the same gender started playing in my mind. Is it wrong? Is it just a phase? Why am I getting attracted to guys and not girls? All of this kept revolving in my mind.
Back then, I was not aware of the term “homosexuality”. But at that age, internet access was very new to me, and I started utilizing it and browsing up on more regarding these questions. After several days of browsing, I realized my attraction towards the same gender was nothing abnormal. It’s very natural but many people just think it’s abnormal. I slowly started meeting guys from social networking sites who had the same feelings as I do. But a year later, things got a little complicated when my mother asked me “Don’t you have a girlfriend?”
My mother is my best friend, she always has been. I share everything with her. But this was something different. I asked her why she asking about a girlfriend. She replied,” You always mention the names of boys when you go out, and I have never heard a single girl’s name. Are you gay?”
I was terrified that if I had told her about my orientation, she would react badly. I tried to change the topic. I was not sure if I was gay or bisexual, back then. I needed time too before I could come out to her. My mother used to ask me this same question once in a month or two. And when I was 20 years old, and pretty sure about my orientation, the day she asked me again, I replied “Yes, I am gay.”
It was pin drop silence then. I thought the silence would lead to a major explosion. Then, after couple of minutes, my Mom said, “I knew about you but I just wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth.” That day I felt I was on the top of the world. A few days later, I asked her if Dad knew about my orientation. She did not reply immediately, but later she said she had discussed it with him. Dad is a very calm and reserved person. He rarely converses. He follows the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Even though he doesn’t say it, he is aware of everything.
At the age of 21, I first attended a public LGBTQ Event called “Queer Hugs” in Kolkata organized by the online group Harmless Hugs, and it was a turning point in my life. There, I met many individuals who became good friends later on and are still in my life. After that, I began attending all the LGBTQ events in the city. My mother too walks in Prides too, she’s done a total of three, as well as marching on March 31, International Transgender Visibility Day. She has been honored and felicitated for the tremendous support by the Association for Transgender/Hijra in Bengal on April 15th, 2018.
During my journey, I slowly started moving towards activism. Till date, I am not associated with any organization, because I work for the community as an individual—an independent LGBTQ Activist.
I believe the first torture of queer people begins at our own homes. When you have such a supportive family especially mother, you are really blessed. It has been an amazing journey till date travelling across India for so many Prides, and meeting such beautiful souls on the way. None of this would have been possible without having such positive people around me, and most importantly the blessings and support of parents who accept me the way I am.
Teenage kids generally have a hard time coming out to their parents. I came out to my teenage kids. I had come out to my parents almost 20 years earlier. My coming out story is a bit tortuous, not unlike those of many gay men of my generation.
Born in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu at the very end of the flower power 60s, I had my sexual awakening in the early 80s as a teen. I was in an all-boys school and my first sexual experience was a blow job at my home from a classmate who clearly knew what he was doing. Initially I wrote it off as just serving my sexual needs with what I could get. But then we kept meeting at each other’s homes when our parents were out. We would sit so close next to each other in class on those old fashioned benches so that as much of our bodies could touch each other. We even began to share items of clothing.
Don Johnson of ‘Miami Vice’ fame has the dubious honor of witnessing my first hand job orgasm from the cover of a magazine. It was the time when the world first started speaking of AIDS. I remember reading an article in Newsweek about the “gay epidemic” and being extremely worried if I was going to get it. Daytime fantasy was drawing pictures of naked muscle guys making out, while my dream was to marry a woman and have kids. Even then, I never thought of myself as a homosexual. But there was something bothering me in the back of my head.
So when I got the opportunity, I switched to a co-ed school after my 10th grade. I never talked to my parents about changing schools, I just announced it to them, when I got admitted. My dad was convinced I had moved schools for a girl. I was popular in high school both with the guys and the girls and I flirted with several of them. I was a topper in academics but that didn’t stop me from flirting with the younger lady teachers either. I was always obsessed with the male body, especially a muscled one. I was convinced that the male body is the most beautiful thing on earth, perhaps I still am. I would read everything about bodybuilding that I could lay my hands on. But in those days there were no proper gyms to go to. So I convinced my parents to buy me one of those pneumatic “Bull workers” and I trained in my bedroom.
Undergraduate Engineering College, PSG Tech in Coimbatore was when I started having proper girlfriends. These relationships filled my heart, but something still felt not quite right. One afternoon stands with guys continued. I’ve always been a romantic and sometimes I would fall madly in puppy love with some of them. One time, when I as in my final year of college, an hour of flirting lead to making love to a classmate of mine in his dorm room. He seemed completely into me and he spoke that evening about how we had lost all this time and how we could both have girlfriends as fronts, while we would be lovers. But the next morning at college he pretended that the previous night didn’t happen. This was the time I started to seriously question my sexuality but I still wasn’t sure. Isn’t a gay guy supposed to be effeminate and talk and walk funny? How could a masculine guy like me, be gay? And probably for that reason, my sexuality didn’t worry me. “Moi? I couldn’t be gay”.
Going to the US for Graduate school in 1991, clarified things. Philadelphia was reasonably gay friendly even then and the University of Pennsylvania which I went to had a very liberal air about it. It was still the pre internet days but gay erotica and movies which didn’t exist In India shaped my imagination and struck a chord. Even in those pre Grindr days, hook ups like in gym toilets weren’t hard to come by and with them I realized more and more that I definitely preferred guys to girls. After a year, I finally found the balls to attend an LGBT club meet in my university (thinking back I wonder what took me so long) which lead me to my first gay bar experience. I woke up in someone else’s bed the next morning. Suddenly I had a circle of supportive gay friends, an adopted family who accepted my gay side. Gay bar visits became twice a week. I felt liberated.
And then I met my first boyfriend. He went to Law School and was the all American guy. I like men on the shorter side; I prefer their proportions. He was intelligent, articulate, funny and kind. It was love at first sight. We both lost the group of friends we came with and ended up at his home, which I never left for the next 9 months. He introduced me to his friends the next morning and I was immediately assimilated in. His parents lived in New England and they seemed to accept our relationship.
That’s when I decided to come out to my family. I started with my oldest brother, older by 9 years, but he just did not want to discuss it any further with me. When I visited India next, I told my mom and dad. They were obviously very surprised and totally ignorant of my “condition”, not knowing if it was just a phase or a permanent abnormality. But things never became dramatic like being asked to get out of the house. The only comment that is still etched into my skull was from my dad “You are going to be just passed on from man to man”. That disgusted me. I wasn’t the kind of guy who would be ‘passed on’. But I figured this is how most of the world would view a gay man – helpless, weak, and unmanly. None of which I could ever be, because nature had designed me to be confident, proud and even aggressive at times. At the end of that visit, when my parents came to see me off at the airport, my dad broke down. He truly believed it was probably the last time he would see me. He said he had one request: Not to live with my boyfriend in the same apartment. I couldn’t say no to him, seeing him in the state he was.
When I went back to Philadelphia, I told my boyfriend I was moving out. He was understandably very upset. He told me he had been warned about this by his Asian girlfriend – that for an Asian, the family can be very influential and be a deciding factor in determining an individual’s course of action. He was doubtful about the future of our“ relationship and wanted to break up. I was angry at being judged and I didn’t do much to reconcile the relationship. It was a pity and I’ve always felt bad about walking out on him, especially given all that he’d done for me.
Being alone, I had time to think about things. I asked myself if I was going to be happy as an openly gay man. I wanted a “normal” life – get married (to a guy would be preferable), have kids, be a successful entrepreneur, go out in nature that I loved and ride my motorcycle. There were no successful gay role models in the early 90s, even in the western world. No Tim Cook, no Ricky Martin, no Gareth Thomas. Same sex marriage was almost unthinkable those days, even in the US. I didn’t want to be a loser; I didn’t want to sacrifice my dreams just because of my sexuality. It didn’t seem worth it. I had no neutral person to advise me. So I decided to renounce that part of me and get married to a woman. A beautiful woman who I had known since Kindergarten.
While my now ex-wife and I had been friends for a long time, marriage never occurred to us until her parents suggested it. It took a little time for me to see it possible to think of her as a partner rather than as a friend. When I did decide to get married to her, I wanted it for life. I am a monogamous guy by nature and I like to put everything into the relationship with my partner. And that’s how our married life started in the US. We were best of friends and lovers. We couldn’t be separated. We did everything together for 15 years. Life was a dream. We moved back to India. Two beautiful and intelligent kids followed. A beautiful home. We were the perfect couple in the eyes of society. I couldn’t imagine a life without her. I had no extra marital affairs, no one fighters. I was a doting and faithful husband. It’s not that I never longed to make love to a man. I dreamed of licking that portion of a guy’s neck that is just below his buzzed hairline, my favorite part of a man’s body or get a beard burn from kissing him. I would speak about it to my ex but it was all fun and games and she took it very sportingly. I was honest with her always. She knew about my past pretty much from day one. I kept my mind busy with my work and my hobbies. My mountaineering and skiing sojourns. My marathons around the world. The Ironman. Life went from one goal (business and personal) to another. We both couldn’t have been happier.
Things suddenly changed in my late 30s. I was in Singapore in a mall. I saw this younger guy come down an escalator. He must have seen me looking at him. He caught up with me and told me he was a tourist and asked me if I could help him find a pharmacy. I knew this was a ruse. My gay street smartness may have been a little rusty, but I know a male to male call when I see one. And he was a handsome Latino. I have something for Latinos since my Philadelphia days. Their passion is juicy and free flowing. They know how to arouse me with just the way they touch me even if it was with the tip of their little finger. It’s like I can speak to them with my eyes and skin, even if I didn’t know a word of their language. I invited him for a drink leading to a night together that made me feel like a new person. He had his flight the next day and we never saw each other again.
I am an outspokenly honest guy, and I told my ex (wife at that time) about the incident. Things between her and me went south from there. Not because I told her, but because the incident changed something in me. She could sense it in my physical relationship with her and this put stress on me in bed, throwing our relationship into a fast deteriorating cycle. After a couple of years, we asked ourselves if we were happy going about our lives like this. We had many years in front of us. We took time over coming to a decision and the decision was to go our own ways. To be honest, I never imagined a life outside of my marriage with her, even if I has sexual cravings outside of it. Neither did I intend on having affairs. Love goes beyond sex. What if I were married to a guy and all of a sudden he couldn’t have sex for some reason. Would I leave him for that? No, I wouldn’t. Would I have a sexual relationship with a third person? No, I wouldn’t. This is just how I’m wired. In other words, I wouldn’t have broken my marriage unilaterally. But when we both felt this was the way out, the path ahead was clear.
When we decided that our life from now was not meant to be together, we also set ourselves free to find other people. I met my partner and now fiance on a rainy November day in Madrid. And he being Latin, our eyes and skin spoke to each other from the first minute. We were very intensely physically attracted to each other and we spent a weekend of passion. Even though we both knew my flight was at the crack of dawn on Monday, we hoped that there would be more to us, than just a weekend of sex. I changed my travel plans and came back to see him. And that’s when the romance started. We found we wanted the same things in life, while at the same time our interests lay in different areas. He is an architect by qualification and very passionate and knowledgeable about music, literature and fashion, so much so that I feel like a country bumpkin when he starts talking about these subjects. In these five years we’ve never gotten bored of each other. I love to grow and evolve with time and see my partner do the same. And if the two people can accept and adopt to these changes as they continue to create memories together, it makes for an unbreakable partnership.
My ex-wife and I both felt that the only persons we needed to consider in our process of separation and be sensitive to were our kids. Definitely not society and not so much even our parents and siblings. We planned the timing of when best to tell our kids, making sure it didn’t affect their school lives. And so I came out to my kids in the presence of my then wife. The message literally was “I’m gay. Your mum and I are going to get divorced. And I have a boyfriend” . That’s like 3 bolts striking you out of the blue. And there’s no way to pad it. I just paused between each bolt, stupidly hoping a few seconds in-between could help. But the kids seemed to take it amazingly well. Luckily they were old enough and by then independent enough, having been in boarding school. It might not have affected their day to day life, as they lived in different countries but naturally one’s parents breaking up is definitely not a nice thing to happen to anyone. The only solace comes from the fact that it could be worse if the parents continued to live together and fight with each other every day, making home life a living hell. It’s not about if they will not be scarred either way, it’s about which wound is less deep. My daughter said she wanted to meet my boyfriend. My son asked me questions about him. And they both met him shortly after. I feel so blessed to have kids like them for accepting me unconditionally. It’s incredible, this new generation. I find myself learning values from my kids.
Next came our parents. My ex decided to tell her parents by herself and I met them a few days later. It was a huge jolt for them but they dealt with it a civilized way with no drama. There were no desperate attempts to try and keep us together like some parents would have. They seemed to know that it would be futile. But I could sense a need in them to ‘avenge’ their daughter. While things went fine with my ex at the time we planned our separation and divorce, I guess the gravity of what happened took a while to hit her. It turned out to be more painful and emotional than we thought it would.
I stopped being close to my parents from the time I came out to them in my early 20s. I didn’t keep them informed about everything. Just that we were separated. I only told them I was getting divorced on the day we filed for it. My first reaction from my mum was “I hope you are not going to marry your boyfriend”. In the meantime, I had moved to Bangalore where I started my new Business, ZAGO an Urban Lifestyle Beverages Company and set up home with my boyfriend who would spend a couple of months with me at a time, living between Bangalore and Madrid. After a few months my mother called me in Bangalore and said she felt bad about losing me and that as my mother her love for me is unconditional. She said “I love you and therefore I love your boyfriend too”. She met with him and they hit it off. She told him, “You know what. I like you. And I think you can take care of my difficult son”. Ever since she’s been in touch with him. My 90 year old dad needed his own time. In the beginning it was “Why would I want to meet someone who destroyed our family”. And then it was “Sorry I was too harsh in my choice of words”. And finally it was “You know I really like how you’ve gone about things and I respect you for that”. My dad and I never hug. But I hugged him that day. And he hugged me back tighter.
One of my brothers on the other hand has been totally unaccepting “Well I know you are gay and stuff, but do you need to live with a guy” to “You are ruining your children’s lives”. My other brother seems a little more accepting and has visited me and my boyfriend’s home a few times. I have to say my coming out has had my family, my parents and my siblings taking a lot of shit from society. People would make caustic remarks. They stopped calling them. Stopped sending them New Year greetings that they had done for years. They lost a lot of ‘friends’ too. But they never took it out on me and I truly respect and admire them for that.
My boyfriend was born in Cuba. Most of his family moved to Miami. He decided he preferred Spain and moved there when he was in his early 20s. I was the first boyfriend he introduced to his parents. And today his whole family including his sisters, their husbands, the grand kids and the great grand kids (his sisters are much older to him!) accept the Indian as one of them in their very Cuban family.
Once I came out to my family, I only chose to tell a very few close friends of mine. I wanted it to just trickle down to the others in a gradual process through word of mouth and through my social media posts. Some of them couldn’t catch the not so subtle posts. One of them even asked me “So who is this guy who is there in so many of your posts as if he were your spouse!” But with my friends, it’s been overall positive. They are all mostly in their 40s and 30s. My school friends, my college mates, my Motorcycle buddies many of them have been accepting and several of them have told me how much they admire what I’ve done. I have more ‘true’ friends now than before, people who I know will be there for me through thick and thin. These new friendships or the old ones that have been rejuvenated since my coming out more than make up for all ‘fake’ ones that I lost. And I’m out at work too. It does help that it’s my own Company! The only people I feel let down by is the Coimbatore society most of whom to this day treat me like a social pariah.
I come from a privileged position in society with a certain economic independence. I feel thankful for my position as well as for the countless people who have fought for LGBT rights that allow me to lead the openly gay life I lead now. I want to give back in some way and this is an ongoing exercise. I used social media as a PR and communication tool. Firstly to come out to friends and acquaintances in a more efficient way and not to put them in an embarrassing position, not knowing how to react when I announce to them, my sexuality. Secondly, to show them how gay people lead their lives and that they share the same challenges and joys like straight people. Thirdly to give other closeted gay people hope that there are viable options to living depressed or committing suicide. And lastly to communicate to the people back in Coimbatore that I did not ‘run away’ from their town and that I am a proud openly gay man, living life on my terms.Even if my posts help one person’s life, I would be satisfied.
As I write this, the Indian Supreme Court has ruled for decriminalizing “unnatural “sex in the IPC 377. I went about the whole day of 6th of September, 2018 with a lump in my throat. Like any life changing event, today’s Supreme Court verdict takes time to sink in. After years of being the subject of ignorance and ridicule, it’s gratifying to be not just given dignity but also compassion for what LGBT people in this country have gone through. When you have suffered long, you become numb but when a loving hand comforts you, you just breakdown. The Supreme Court has not just been a Bearer of Justice. It has been my mother, father, sibling and friend all rolled into one, by not just accepting me but even understanding my pain. The day my country accepted me (at least legally) was every bit as emotional as the day my mother accepted who I am.
One could wonder what this ruling does for the Urban Queer in India who has been going about her love life fairly unhindered. I think the legality that the Supreme Court’s ruling gives to the community also validates that we are not a bunch of perverted freaks with a mental disorder and the we deserve the same rights as other citizens. The ruling sends a strong message to people like my brother who think it’s wrong for me to live with a guy, to my “friends” from Coimbatore and those of my parents’ who turned their backs on us, to Bollywood, to school bullies, to work colleagues, to the rural masses and even to our political parties. It has planted the seed of change in their heads that we hope will eventually reach their hearts as well. It has signaled that they need to update their “values”. I can now kiss my man at the airport and tell business colleagues what I did with him over the weekend (minus the naughty bits). And such “normalization” of our lives will hopefully help the society at large to understand us better.
The most important words that have influenced my life were those of my daughter’s Head Master at her High School Graduation. They have helped shape my life since. He said
“In life you will face situations occasionally where you have to choose between two paths. One will appear to be the easy path to follow and the other will seem to be the right path to take. Always choose the right path because that’s eventually going to be the path to happiness.”
When I had an opportunity to choose which path to take in my early 20s, I took the easy path. But when I was given the opportunity again later in life, I decided to take the right path. I could have taken the easy path again and still been a sexually promiscuous and closeted ‘straight’ husband but I chose to take the right path and come out.
My life though has been turned upside down, since. It’s been harder, lacking the comforts and security I was used to, but I don’t miss them anymore. The sacrifices have been more than worth it. Many times I felt all alone on this transformational journey that’s almost taken a decade. Until a couple of years ago, things were often times very dark and depressing. There was no one I could talk too. My boyfriend who had spent most of his adult life in Spain was having his own issues dealing with India and its unique culture, for the time that he spent in the sub-continent. The geographic distance that was there between us at the other times was a test of the strength of our relationship. Depression and suicidal tendencies are common among gay people until they get comfortable about themselves and have a support group of friends and family around them. There have been several occasions when I felt that I was done with the world and perhaps even that the world would be a better place for my family without me. I did my research and figured out the best way to go. But I had a passionate dream of how I wanted to forge my new life and I wasn’t going to give up the struggle for this dream so easily. I took one day at a time, purged the negativity from my system and just focused on my dream. My boyfriend and I stood for each other through thick and thin throughout the whole process of transforming our lives. He accepted the baggage I came with. I couldn’t have made it without him. And I knew I was taking the right path, however hard it seemed.
Today, I can sleep well with a clean conscience, holding my man. There is no better luxury in life than a good night’s sleep.
Sai Kaustuv Dasgupta is a 90% differently abled guy but according to him that’s just a number that is relevant to fully able people; to him, he is 100% mentally able and that is what matters.
Sai suffers from Osteogenesis Imperfecta or Brittle Bone disease and had more than 50 fractures till date in 26 years of his life. Because of complications due to his condition, he was confined to a room for 6 years unable to move or do anything without help. “During those years of confinement, I used to feel alone, lost and upset when I couldn’t see the sun, moon or the beautiful creations of nature. I used to be in depression, there was darkness all around. I had to discontinue my studies, my singing and let go of all things I was passionate about. To come out of this depression I tried my hand at designing, it was very tough, learning from home, but I broke that barrier too. I started designing by operating the mouse with my left hand, that too with only one finger” says Sai. “I came out of my small room in the year 2015 after struggling for 6 years. When I saw myself in a new electric wheelchair, I was a completely different person. After that moment, I did not allow myself to be confined further into a corner of the room and beg for mercy because people don’t have time to deal with such personal issues. The only thing I could do was to accept my life the way it came. Sooner I did, better for myself. I thus believe that acceptance is huge than expectations, and that really made my life a miracle!”
Life is full of perceived suffering, and a human fails to grasp how the grass isn’t really as green as it lets on. It took deep insight, immense maturity and introspection for Kaustuv to decide on a conclusion and take action. He refused to see his disability as a limitation, he chose to treat this as a life’s surprise, something to be adapted to. He accepted his unique condition and decided to be a beacon of hope for the differently abled. With a comforting and a reassuring tone, he shared with the world how he conquered all odds to win the battle of perception. He chose gratitude over self defeating gloom, and believed how special he was. His purpose in life was clear to him then.
“All motivation comes from within.” Kaustuv shares how suffering and hardship is self inflicted by unhealthy thought processes. By comparing ‘us’ with ‘them’, we attempt to compete with ‘others’ all our lives. Hooked onto the habit of competing, we are constantly on the lookout of new competition. This leads to a vicious circle of disappointment. Our greed drives a self critical approach, that attaches our happiness with material comforts. We keep postponing our happiness till the time we have it all, only that it is an unending pursuit. “Compete with yourself. Makes yourself better every day. The world is as compassionate as you are. It is as competent as you are.” Kaustuv shares how we need to look ‘within’ and love ourselves for what we are.
Sai Kaustuv is the only disabled Happiness Coach in India. He chose this unique option as the art of his life because Happiness Coach itself is an identity, which describes the real essence of human life. People often ask him, how is it possible to be happy after going through so many sufferings and hurdles. They feel that disabled people are not here to celebrate their life. They have no right to think big and dream of touching the sky. But, if you start seeing what great things they can do, the whole world will get a surprise! Sai feels sorry for the people who complains. Sai feel bad for those who do not feel satisfied with what they have. They feel caged and start blaming Society, neighbours, relatives for their problems. If they are caged, then what about various people who are differently abled? He can undoubtedly tell people that he is caged or confined because Sai can’t move himself an inch on his own. He needs 24/7 assistance from his parents to move, to shift into bed or to do anything. If Kaustuv starts complaining about all these things, who will come forward to solve them? “If you cry, if you complain, if you criticize small things in your life, you will not have enough. So always be grateful for what you have. If you really want be successful, transform your adversities to opportunities. There are thousands of things to complain about but there are millions of things to be grateful for.” says Sai Kaustuv.
A happiness coach & motivational speaker, a graphic designer, a TEDx speaker, a singer and music composer, a writer, a Wheelchair warrior, Sai has multiple talents and interests and he doesn’t let the fact that he is bound to an electric wheelchair stop him. He has taught himself to write, play an instrument and operate a computer with just one working finger on his left hand; he is an international graphic designer; he has written a book titled ‘My Life, My Love, My Dear Swami’; he has a YouTube channel of his musical compositions; he gives motivational talks to thousands of people all across the globe through Skype; he is a champion for the cause of making public spaces more accessible for the disabled; and he does it all from his electric wheelchair.
Sai Kaustuv Dasgupta, broke new barriers and entered into 9 National & World Records for Fastest Virtual Typing Speed (28 words in 52 Seconds) with one finger of left hand through mouse and on-screen keyboard.
Limca Book of Records 2018: National Record
India Book of Records 2018: National Record
Asia Book of Records 2018: Asian Record
Miracle World Records 2018: World Record
Indian Achiever Book of Records 2018: National Record
Telugu Book Book of Records 2018: National Record
World Records India 2018: World Record
Vajra World Records 2018: World Record
Assist World Records 2018: World Record
According to Sai Kaustuv:
“Miracles happen in the lives of people who choose to create that miracle, I chose this miracle and made it happen in my own life to inspire many more like me to choose the best in their lives.”
It is question to God and to me as well. Is it really my body? Like others have. Why the hell my body is not matching with my mind , my soul? Why I am different from others? There are thousand of question but there is no suitable answer for that.
I am transsexual (girl trapped in male’s body). Though my physical appearance is just like girls or there are just few differences (body parts). Life of gays, lesbians, transgender and transsexuals are full of struggle and like serials it has a high voltage drama. So many questions are there in my mind. And I have to answer them wrongly. I am living 2 lives one as real me (transsexual) and second as fake(straight) . I feel extremely bad for that. I also want to live my life as real without disturbing others. There is massive societal pressure; many people tend to fear us or make fun of us. I am seeking counselling to manage horror thoughts regarding my future and my family.
As it quite common with kids who have Gender Dysphoria. I also came to know that there’s something which is not right. When I was 5 year old I started feeling like i’m different. I wore sarees by dupattas etc. I use to live n dress up like girls. I love to dress up like girls . Everyone thought that i’m a child and it will be fine and ignored. I have attractions towards boys but i like to play with girls. I use to play ghar ghar, hide and seek which usually girls play where as I hate playing football or cricket. When other children made fun of me, then I felt that there’s something wrong.
At the age of 7 I thought that I am gay. I came to know about sex etc at the age of 6 because my cousin who is now 21 seduced me while playing. At the age of 10 I fell in love with a boy. In excitement, I told that to my mom. She laughed and dint go against me. She supported me. But that boy was straight and he doesn’t had any attractions so I was hurt. But when I was 15 I again fell in love with another guy. This time , when I happily told her, she got worried and tensed. She took me to a psychiatrist. He said that its not good and he said that I am an abnormal child and bla bla… he thought that I am mad. He started doing counselings and all such stuffs. I felt very uneasy and uncomfortable..I thought that I am all alone in this world. I use to cry at nights. Hiding from everyone.
My acting skills are very good. I decided to took an advantage from it. I have done a drama that I am fine and normal now and proved that I don’t fall in love with other boys anymore. I make the things fake like I watched modelling of boys. I learn how to walk like them. I learn many things but I really felt bad while doing this all. Practicing such learning was also very difficult (i am not practicing it now as now my classmates have sympathetic nature, sympathy for my health issues) But i have no other options. I don’t want to get those electric shocks which I have seen many people bearing.
Mummy was now relieved. After doing a lot of research, finding symptoms and other popular persons like Nikkiey Chawla, Gazal etc I came to know that my feelings match with them and we are transsexuals.
I was so much depressed that now my nerves are weak (nerves of brain) . Now whenever I feel depressed I fall unconscious. But again I have to go for neurologists and psychotherapist for counselling. I never told them about the real me(because of previous incident) .. I gave them fake and lame reasons.
I think that my life is bit tough..i don’t want to leave my parents because they have sacrificed a lot for me. My father always stood in tensions. He has hardly seen any happiness. My parents have all the expectations from me as my younger brother is not good in studies and I am. I have very good relations with my teachers. They always praise me. Though I belong to rich family. My every dream is fulfilled..I feel so lucky and unlucky at the same time.. Plz sugst me wht to dO ? Who will answer my questions? Will my parent be proud of me or hate me? What will be our future. Now my brothers know about the real me as once no one was at home except me and him. I was crying in front of my shivji(im devotee of him, crying infront of his idol) and he came there. He has positive attitude to people like us so I, crying, confessed everything. And he happily, emotionally supported me but sometimes he feels ashamed of me. He doesn’t want me to come in front of his classmates as they make fun of me. I have to live with these issues, with their comments but he has…. Well i know these questions are unanswerable . But i have hope. I want to payback every happiness to my parents so to be free.
Having just returned from a few days in Auroville, the Matrimandir has become to me a symbol of my coming out, emerging from the earth as it were to shine my light in all its brilliance as authentically and sincerely as humanly possible. My story of coming out as a gay man, the first I reckon in my entire community of neighbourhood, church, school, university and social network of my birth and upbringing, is an on-going challenging and exciting journey of self discovery and discovery of what all my relationships are really made of. I have experienced how being open and proud of my truth has repercussions not just for me but also for all who know me, especially my family. It’s a coming out for all of us not just me!
My first realisations of being gay were very early on in life, well it was not so much being gay but being effeminate. By the age of 7, I was aware that I was different to other boys, I didn’t like the rough and tumble of the playground, I preferred the company of girls and also older women, being creative, participating in domestic things that are typically socially associated with the feminine, into intellectual and spiritual debate. I used to love dressing up in my mum’s saris when no one was home! For being effeminate and sensitive I was teased and bullied, verbally sometimes physically, both by boys and girls and adults alike! The taunting was not just in the school field, but also in church, the neighbourhood and sometimes even at home.“You should’ve been born a girl” was often shouted out, like as though that was a bad thing. I grew up with the very clear notion that it was unsafe and unacceptable to be truly me.
To be loved I had to be what everyone else wanted me to be, my mother included.
So guess what, I did my best to be ‘the good boy’ everyone adored and loved and did that very well indeed right into my twenties, becoming the ‘blue eyed boy’ and shouldered the aspirations of an entire community. I now realise being the good boy is not a unique phenomenon, Dr Alan Downs in his best seller, “The Velvet Rage” talks of it as ‘the good boy trap’ where a lot of gay boys fall into the trap of becoming high achievers, excelling in multiple fields, mostly to compensate for that very deep inner fear of feeling less than our straight counterparts and indeed the shame involved with being gay. The messages that I grew up with was that being gay was sinful, disgusting, dirty, unacceptable, against nature, God and society and that I was going to hell, apart from a host of other negative messages. No one is born with shame. Shame is a learnt emotion. A powerful emotion.
The realisation that I liked boys and not girls happened much later as I was a late developer. The paisa truly dropped when I was about 16 nearing 17, when I realised there was no other way, this is who I am, its intrinsic to me, I’m not wilfully choosing to be attracted to boys, I’ve never been attracted to girls so it wasn’t that I was giving up my attraction for them in preference for boys either. These realisations were very private, I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone with this. There were no teachers, elders or guides I felt I could go to, to talk about this. Using my own initiative I went to a psychiatrist who I found in the newspapers who said that he could perhaps help me become bisexual, and even at that young age I knew he was a quack. There were no affirming messages anywhere to be found. There was no loving arm to hold me. There was no reassurance from anywhere. So I went deeper into the trap of being the good boy and went into the Church to train as a pastor, hoping religion and faith would cure me! Fasting and prayer only made matters worse. The isolation and confusion worsened and there was no one I felt who would understand or support me in this struggle.
Quite by chance while in seminary, a senior told me that his organisation was going over the weekend to a certain park to ‘evangelise’ gay men who met there. Everything changed from that moment on for me. What? Who? When? Where? The fact that there were other people like me? And there is a place where I could go and meet them? I can’t tell you how fast my heart beat! The excitement overwhelming!
Off I went the following week sometime in March 1997 and sure enough for the first time ever, met other men, even to just hold their hand and look in their eyes was like heaven. Soon I came to attend Good As You an organisation set up then for support and advocacy for the queer community which became a weekly support for me on Thursdays. I would sneak out of seminary and drive a 60km round trip just for this support and I’m glad it is still there today doing some amazing work in providing support for those coming out, I was one of their first voluntary counsellors on the telephone switchboard service they started way back then.
I hadn’t yet come out. Being the good boy however had its uses and I was sent off to Cambridge, UK in 1998 to do an internship by the seminary I trained in and was faculty-designate. While in Cambridge, I had the opportunity to talk to the greatest minds and scholars of Christianity both from the conservative and liberal schools of thought to make my own mind up about what the Bible had to say about being gay. As for me I had to find a way of reconciliation between my faith and my sexuality to be able to accept myself and come out. When I realised in a very profound way that the Bible does not condemn me for who I am, and that Jesus himself had much love and compassion for those who were not straight (Matthew 19:11,12) for Jesus was very much on the side of the marginalised of society, the fringe, the condemned. So I was able to come out to myself helped very much by a dear friend of mine who is now the Chaplain of the LSE and Prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. After much research again pretty much in hiding with little support as I was afraid I would be sent back home to India and disgraced if it came out into the open and was afraid of what impact it would have on my family.
The first person I came out to was my one and only older sibling, as I thought I would get a sympathetic ear. I was so wrong. I was in tears. I spoke to her over the phone while I was in Cambridge, only to be told that I was making a choice and that my choice was wrong, against God’s will and that I should never tell my parents as it would kill them and that she would never support this. That view hasn’t changed to this day. It tore me apart. I was unacceptable. For which I was often told, “You are always loved and accepted, its just THAT part of you which is unacceptable!” Is it a part of me or is sexuality a fundamental part of one’s psychological, sociological and sexual framework, of how one views and understands and lives out one’s place in the world? I had to know and understand. So I studied hard and became a psychotherapist and worked in the gay community providing individual and group therapy for the past 15 years. The Church was no longer an option for me as an out and proud gay man. I parted ways with the seminary which still today remains a sore wound it seems. The blue eyed boy had become the disappointment of an entire community, and a cause for gossip from school teachers to shop keepers. People who really didn’t know me much condemned me as a person of bad character! How being gay equated to bad character I would never know. In the Indian context one doesn’t have to explain the impact of such a “fall from grace” on friends and family.
So it was easier for me and them to be as far away from it all as possible. London became home to me for the next 17 years, where I was free to be me, explore who I was, make my mistakes, achieve my goals, have my relationships and break ups. There was not even one person in my network there who didn’t love me fully and wholeheartedly for being gay!
So the next stage was to tell my parents. I had kept saying no to the many proposals of marriage that were coming my way. While in Bangalore I too tried hard to conform and tried to have a girlfriend, and got it so wrong! Finally there was a marriage proposal in 2002 which came along that in the community seemed perfect in all respects! It had to be right, right?! I was in London and these conversations were happening in Bangalore! I was coming for the Easter vacations on holiday – great perfect time to be organising a wedding right? Wrong! I was dying inside! How was I going to say no to this proposal that from all angles and perspectives seemed right? Right except for one thing! That one thing! Suddenly that one thing became everything!
It was Maundy Thursday a special day in my calendar as on that day I was miraculously saved from death as a 3 year old child who had fallen off the roof of his house into a granite stone gutter, this miracle commemorated every year, that God had saved me for a special purpose! I sat my folks down around the dining table, my sister knew what was coming. I told my folks that I couldn’t marry. I could marry this girl or any girl for that matter. There were no words, suddenly no vocabulary sufficient to put the point across effectively. The words “I am gay” felt empty and meaningless. So I said, I’m not attracted to women, I can’t make women happy etc it was excruciating! Tears everywhere. Mum and Dad suggesting medical treatment thinking I was impotent. Slowly over the next few days the penny dropped for them too to a certain degree. Suddenly the conflict between love and faith became real. Tested for the first time in such a fundamental way. I must say I’m lucky to have the family I have for it is their love that binds us all together even though their understanding of the Bible seems to prevent them from accepting me for who I am. I’ve tried fighting and arguing my case over the years. 17 years later I have returned back from London and to find that much of what I ran away from is still very present. There’s much work to be done. What I am in control of is me accepting them for who they are, and love them even though they may not accept me, yet. My father on the other hand has indeed worked very hard in understanding. He has listened to all the debates on TV when way back in the mid 2000s the Delhi High Court had ruled against section 377. He made a scrap book of all the newspaper articles on the subject, saying “son, all the arguments you give, they are also saying.” Bless him. He and I have since become friends. I know he understands. He shows it in his own way and that is enough for me.
In 2005 I met my partner. I had a wonderful long relationship with him a dear handsome Swedish man my first ever real relationship. After almost 4 years of being together we visited India together and met the whole family of course not explicitly. My parents came to London to stay with us twice. On the second visit we decided to have a civil union, my family were very opposed to it and would not approve even though they all loved my partner. We went ahead anyway, the family did not attend. We thought we’d give the family a year to think about it and so we had a big wedding in Stockholm a year later but sadly the family decided not to participate and I was told not to tell anyone about it either, so I had no representation from my Indian side at my wedding. Sadly when we separated a few years later, that process too was without much support for they did not know how to I reckon, and didn’t accept or validate that relationship fully in the first place.
Slowly over the years others in my family have come to understand and support albeit privately. Other childhood friends from school, college and even church community have shown support and acceptance which is truly wonderful. Things are changing for the better. When people realise that the Queer community is actually PRO-community in so many wonderful ways, and when we are allowed to freely be who we truly are as equals, society will see what an immense blessing we can be in our homes, communities and in the work place, we tend to bring a certain quality of joy, colour and life.
Yes it is lonely being the minority of one in such a vast sea of community. However, as in the words of Polonius to his son Laertes in Hamlet “Above all else to thine own self be true” this is worth all of the hardship. To live one’s own life, not the expected life of the community. To shine one’s own light, to know, love and live out one’s own truth. What value can you put on that?
To those still thinking of coming out, I would say as a friend once told me, “If it is truth you have to suffer for, then that suffering is worth more than anything else in the world.” I would say work on your love with your family, trust your love, love conquers all. Where there is love, there is victory. What my sister feared would happen, “don’t tell them, it will kill them,” is what I too believed and feared would happen, it never did. In fact, our relationship is more real that it ever was, its not easy or smooth sailing by any means but at least it is authentic. Where there is love there is no fear.